Notable Ridgefielders: Jacklins, Black patriots from Revolutionary era

Robert and Anne Jacklin, Black Ridgefield pioneers, must have instilled a love of country in their family. As many as four of their sons fought in the American Revolution.

Robert was born in 1715 in New London, son of a former slave who had bought his own freedom. His family moved to what is now New Canaan and he worked on his parents’ farm until he was 30. In 1745, after learning of a new territory that Ridgefield had just purchased from the local natives, he bought 74 acres in upper Ridgebury. He and wife Anne became among the first settlers of northern Ridgefield.

There, Robert and Anne carved out a farmstead from the primeval forests, clearing fields of both trees and countless rocks, cutting wood to build a home, and planting crops — a huge undertaking.

Robert’s 74 acres were about as far from Ridgefield center as a Ridgefielder could get. It was located in what’s now the King Street District of Danbury, northwesterly of Richter golf course, and bordering New York. The trip between there and the village was more than 10 miles over rough, hilly, and often muddy paths, many only recently blazed through the woods.

Nonetheless, Jacklin made the effort to travel to the village to record the births of at least five of his and Anne’s children: Daniel (born 1749), Benjamin (1752), Ebenezer (1757), Anne (1759), and Thaddeus (1761). Both Ebenezer and Thaddeus — and probably Daniel — later served in the American Revolution.

How long the Jacklins remained Ridgebury farmers is not known for certain. Robert was still active in 1777 when he filed notice with the town that he had a “red pied heifer, her face is white, coming two years old, without any artificial mark.” Such descriptions would identify the owners in case the cow wandered off.

By 1778, Robert had property assessed at nearly £26 pounds, typical of a small farm operation at that time.

While there’s no record of Robert’s selling his farm, he probably departed the town — or this life — in the early 1780s. He last appeared on the tax list in 1781, when his property was valued at only £3, suggesting he had already disposed of most of his holdings. He may have “retired” to New Milford where Thaddeus had a home.

Son Ebenezer enlisted in the Fifth Connecticut Regiment early in the Revolution and was with Washington at Valley Forge. He died in poverty in Massachusetts in 1825. Thaddeus joined the Fourth Connecticut Regiment in 1781, serving a six-month tour, which was common for farmers back then. He died around 1830 in New Milford. Daniel is believed to have served in the militia in Ulster County, N.Y. Yet another Jacklin named Lewis served in the Fifth from 1777 until 1780, seeing much action and, like Ebenezer, wintering at Valley Forge. He may have been a son of Robert and Anne whose birth was not registered. —Jack Sanders